Your Donation Will Be Doubled. Support Today!

Internal Affairs Investigators Raid NYPD’s Special Victims Division for Third Time

Logbooks were seized as part of an inquiry into misconduct allegations against high-ranking officers in the division that investigates sex crimes.

Deputy Chief Judith Harrison, commanding officer of the NYPD Special Victims Division.Kat Wawrykow. Photo from AP Images.

Last month, the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB) raided the offices of its Special Victims Division for a third time and seized additional logbooks, two people with knowledge of the investigation told The Appeal. 

In February, the IAB seized two logbooks from the Special Victim Division’s Manhattan squad. In September, IAB investigators stormed three of the division’s offices and seized about 30 logbooks dating back to January 2018. The logbooks came from the Special Victims Division headquarters, the Manhattan Special Victims Squad, and the DNA Cold Case Squad in the Bronx, which handled the troubled Harvey Weinstein investigation

On Monday, a New York judge overseeing Weinstein’s criminal trial on sexual assault charges ruled that Detective Nick DiGaudio cannot be called to testify in the case. DiGaudio had been removed from the investigation after instructing a witness to delete information from her phone and failing to share exculpatory evidence with the Manhattan district attorney’s office. Also on Monday, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office charged Weinstein with raping one woman and sexually assaulting another in 2013.

On Dec. 26, IAB investigators seized an additional 18 months worth of logbooks from the Transit Special Victims Squad, the Brooklyn Child Abuse Squad, and the Brooklyn Special Victims Squad, according to the two people close to the investigation, who are a former high-ranking law enforcement official and an advocate.

The logbooks, which detail the whereabouts of all Special Victims Division officers, were seized last month because the IAB is scrutinizing inspectors, captains, and chiefs for their supervision of squads under their command, the people told The Appeal.

IAB Group 1—which investigates accusations of misconduct against officers with the rank of captain or above—is handling the inquiry. 

The former high-ranking law enforcement official said the IAB is looking into a handful of Special Victims officials who have been accused of violating department policy by coming in late but signing in early—or staying at home while pretending to be at work. Officers are also being investigated for drinking or patronizing bars while on duty.

The IAB is interviewing NYPD officers about Sgt. Keri Thompson, commander of the DNA Cold Case Squad, Lt. Austin Morange, commander of the Manhattan Special Victims Squad, Lt. Leon Mabra, commander of the Bronx Special Victims Squad, and Deputy Inspector Caroline Roe, who oversees the Child Abuse Squads, according to the former high-ranking law enforcement official and the advocate. 

Sgt. Thompson supervised the 10-month Weinstein investigation, as well as detective DiGaudio. Though the IAB is not scrutinizing the NYPD’s investigation into Weinstein, problems with the department’s handling of his case could affect the outcome of the trial. 

None of the four officers responded when contacted by The Appeal. 

Devora Kaye, acting deputy commissioner of public information for the NYPD, declined to comment when asked by The Appeal to confirm, deny, or clarify the involvement of these four Special Victims officers in the IAB investigation. Kaye also declined to comment specifically on the alleged misconduct that the IAB is investigating as well as the most recent IAB raid. Kaye said the IAB investigation “is under internal review” and pointed to her previous statements about the inquiry.

In September, Kaye said the IAB was examining “isolated incidents” involving misuse of time and a department vehicle by the division’s officers. Kaye also maintained that the inquiry had nothing to do with the SVD’s official duties. Yet that same day, the New York Times reported that IAB investigators were also searching for dozens of rape kits that Bronx detectives had picked up from local hospitals but never submitted for testing

“If you’re stealing hours away from your job when you’re investigating sex crimes cases, that’s definitely going to impact the work,” Jane Manning, director of the Women’s Equal Justice Project, told The Appeal.

“I think in the next 1-2 months, [the IAB investigation] will wrap up, they’ll be severely disciplined, 1-2 might be arrested, they’ll all be transferred, and it will be ugly,” the former high-ranking law enforcement official told The Appeal.

The IAB investigation is the latest crisis for the Special Victims Division, which investigates adult sex crimes and crimes against children. In March 2018, New York City’s Department of Investigation (DOI) released a report finding that the division was understaffed and under-resourced for nine years, despite recommendations from an NYPD working group and warnings from the division’s leadership. The report included internal NYPD documents obtained by the DOI that “acknowledge that many sexual assault cases are not properly investigated due to staffing and resource limitations.”

The NYPD disputed the DOI report, calling it “an investigation in name only.” The department did, however, add more investigators to the division, bringing the total number of detectives assigned to sex crimes to 129, a number still shy of the 147 that the DOI said were needed to meet “meet the minimum investigative capacity required.” The NYPD also renovated the facilities where sex crimes victims go to report. 

But the department ignored many of the DOI’s 12 recommendations, and instead decided to conduct its own “top to bottom” review of the Special Victims Division in late 2018. Dermot Shea, chief of detectives at that time, led the review. In December, Shea was sworn in as the NYPD’s 44th commissioner. 

The results of the review led to the removal of Special Victims commanding officer, deputy chief Michael Osgood, whose pleas to increase staffing at the division were ignored for years, even as caseloads skyrocketed. In 2011, when Osgood said understaffing made it difficult for detectives to thoroughly investigate cases, a deputy commissioner responded that the Special Victims Division “did not have to investigate every misdemeanor [sex crime].” In 2017, there were 67 detectives assigned to investigated 5,661 adult sex crimes. For comparison, the city’s homicide squads had 101 detectives assigned to investigate 282 homicides in 2017.

In November 2018, Osgood was reassigned to a patrol borough in Staten Island. One week later, he retired

Osgood was replaced by Judith Harrison, who had no prior experience as a detective or running an investigative division. 

“They put someone who should barely be a chief … in charge, and the three people above her—[Assistant Chief James] Essig, [Deputy Chief Paul] DeEntremont, and Shea—give her no mentoring, no support, and no direction … She’s on an island all by herself,” the former high-ranking law enforcement official told The Appeal.

“The criticism cited of the Special Victims Division presents inflammatory and inaccurate charges that ignore the real improvements that the NYPD has implemented over the past nearly two years,” Kaye wrote in an email statement to The Appeal. “What’s worse, these misleading attacks may actually dissuade survivors from coming forward.”

Since the NYPD’s review of the Special Victims Division, many of the specialized squads that Osgood created to identify and resolve issues with sex crimes investigations—such as the sex crimes classification unit, the quality assurance unit, and the data science team—have been dismantled. The stranger-rape cold case squad and the unit that investigated drug-facilitated sexual assaults were also shut down.

Units set up as failsafes to catch errors and misclassifications in sex crimes investigations were dismantled. Meanwhile, most of the new Special Victims Division investigators are “white shields,” officers who have not yet earned the rank of detective and have little investigative experience, particularly when it comes to complex sex crimes cases. 

Kaye disputed the notion that “white shields” are “less valuable investigators.” “These are seasoned, well-rounded police officers,” Kaye wrote. “Many of these talented investigators were previously domestic violence prevention officers or neighborhood coordination officers who are familiar with investigating sensitive cases and managing large caseloads…These police officers are also paired with senior investigators who mentor them, train them, evaluate them and support them.”

According to Kaye, Deputy Chief Harrison has established new teams within the Special Victims Division, including one that focuses on cases that involve drugs or alcohol, and brought back a liaison unit that works with other agencies and advocates. However, a liaison unit already existed under Osgood.

“In the last year, any truthful person would tell you, the Special Victims Division has spiraled into the basin,” the former high-ranking law enforcement official said. “They have in essence abandoned … investigative process discipline, on top of the fact that the NYPD has not fixed any of the external systemic issues in the [Department of Investigation] report.”

“We are seeing more cases than we did a year ago where victims are mistreated,” said Manning. “More cases than we did a year ago where cases are botched, and cases are falling through the cracks that would not have fallen through a year ago. That is a sign of a division in crisis, in free fall. The quality of work has been in free fall for a year. It is literally a threat to public safety.”